Maya Rigler is just 12 years old, but she’s nervous about proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act.
“In 2015 alone, my medical bills were over $1.5 million,” Rigler told a crowd packed inside the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County in Pennsylvania. The audience responded to Rigler with a unified gasp.
“If the ACA is repealed,” Rigler went on. “I’m worried about kids like me being able to afford the health care they need. I’m worried that when I’m older, I won’t be able to get insurance for the scans and care that I need.”
Rigler of Bryn Mawr said she has had cancer twice. The operations, the rounds of chemotherapy and the continual checkups have all been covered under her mom’s insurance. Now, she is concerned about what the future holds and the prospect of lifetime caps again being placed on health plans.
Her story, along with several other personal ones, took center stage at a self-organized town hall aimed at U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan Wednesday evening. While only a few members of Congress are holding in-person town halls this week, defenders of the Affordable Care Act have been turning out for a string of citizen-driven town halls across the region aimed at attracting the attention of representatives’ while in they break from Washington, D.C. to visit their home districts.
Other concerns at the event included coverage of pre-existing conditions, what will happen to Medicaid under proposed block-grant funding and the associated services for autism and substance abuse issues.
Some pointed to Kaiser Family Foundation data, which found that Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate dropped from 10.2 percent to 6.4 percent over the four years the Affordable Care Act has been in effect. That includes the 700,000 residents who gained coverage through the state’s Medicaid expansion.
Organizing for America, President Obama’s former campaign operation, organized on the event and invited Meehan, a Republican, to attend. He declined their invitation. But in an email, he reiterated the need to replace what is not working with the ACA.
“The current health care law just hasn’t met the promises of affordable, high-quality coverage for too many families in Pennsylvania,” a spokesman from his office wrote. “They’re paying more money in premiums each month and getting less coverage and a choice of fewer doctors in return.”
Twenty-one year-old Haley Mankin, another featured speaker at Wednesday’s event, did meet with Meehan at his office earlier that day. It felt good to be heard, said the Radnor resident, but she worries the proposed replacements he supports for parts of the ACA won’t be real solutions for her long-term health needs.
Under the current policies, she later told those at the Unitarian church, she doesn’t have to worry about coverage for her chronic migraines and other concussion-related health issues once she’s out of school and off of her parents’ plan.
“I have a chronic health condition, and it’s serious,” Mankin said. “I live every day making decisions around it, and I don’t know whether I’ll be able to work full time at the kind of place that I would need without the Affordable Care Act to guarantee that I could have health insurance.”